Survival In Yann Martel's Life Of Pi

1101 words - 4 pages

The saying “desperate times call for desperate measures” holds truth to an extent. In the award winning novel Life of Pi by Yann Martel, drastic measures are taken by characters in order to survive while stranded on a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean. Through his journey, main character, Pi Patel, endures many hardships and witnesses several deaths. Significantly, the death of the zebra accompanying Pi and the other animals establishes a generalization of human nature being sophisticated yet inherently vicious according to methods of survival.
As the least threatening of the animals, the zebra has a connection to all of the organisms on the boat so its death causes mixed reactions. When the hyena kills the zebra, it does so in a barbaric and cruel manner. Though the hyena killing the zebra can be viewed as an action out of desire to live, the zebra was “eaten alive from the inside” by the hyena and painfully lived on for days “[attempting]..self-preservation” (Martel 125). The zebra suffers a long, drawn out death caused by the hyena. Though Elsie Cloete questions “whether animals can suffer", it is obvious that the zebra does by its actions. The animal even “rear[s] its head straight up, as if appealing to heaven” to take away the pain it is feeling (Martel 126). Because the hyena kills the zebra in such an unconventional way, it is easy to see the cruel side becoming predominant in the hyena’s character. The hyena portrays a savage being due to its ruthless, merciless actions towards the zebra and the manner of which it consumes it. Furthermore, once the zebra finally dies, the orangutan, Orange Juice, becomes violent towards the hyena. Because Orange Juice acts as a mother figure and tries to defend the zebra, the death of it pushes her from her natural passive state to an aggressive behavior. Orange juice “[pulls] back her lips, showing off her enormous canines” to prove her aggression and dominance to the hyena (Martel 126). Orange Juice’s actions are out of both defense and anger. Seeing the hyena’s ruthless nature in the murder of the zebra makes Orange Juice more defensive and vicious. Her final outreach in an attempt to survive was when she “hit the beast on the head with her…arm” (Martel 131). This startling action the orangutan produces is evidence that she has abandoned her passive nature when she witnesses the hyena’s brutal capabilities. Additionally, Pi, a passive character also, has violent thoughts toward the hyena after the zebra’s death because of his feeling of terror and need to survive. The death of the zebra provokes “intense hatred for the hyena” as Pi “[thinks] of doing something to kill it… [but does] nothing” (Martel 120). Pi’s reaction to the zebra’s death forms into bitter feelings for the hyena because the hyena inherently shows its true colors of savagery. However, the desire to survive prevents Pi from doing anything against the hyena because his “sense of empathy is blunted by a terrible, selfish hunger for...

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